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Thieves are targeting catalytic converters off your vehicles. Here's how to stop them

Police said converters can be stolen from a vehicle in less than two minutes but there are things you can do to help stop -- or catch -- the thieves.

HOUSTON — The Houston Police Department is reporting catalytic converter thefts have increased dramatically this year.

They're up more than 300% compared to this time last year, HPD said. 

Mike Beglin with Sal’s Automotive once told KHOU 11 that converter thefts are rising because thieves are after small amounts of metal inside the converters which can sell for hundreds of dollars.

Police said converters can be stolen from a vehicle in less than two minutes.

RELATED: HCSO: 32 stolen catalytic converters found in vehicle after suspects arrested during chase

RELATED: Caught on camera: Police say same man continues to steal catalytic converters in Houston

Every car built after 1974 has a catalytic converter, but police said these six vehicles are targeted the most:

  • Toyota Tundra
  • Toyota Prius
  • Toyota Tacoma
  • Ford F-250
  • Honda Element & CRV

Auto Theft Division Sergeant Tracy Hicks says you always want to be on alert about thieves stealing catalytic converters because there's no specific time thieves like to target vehicles.

“Thefts are happening day and night, but most seem to happen during the day in crowded parking lots with lots of noise to cover up the noise of removal of the converters,” said Sergeant Hicks.

RELATED: This $6 fix could deter catalytic converter thieves

The cost of replacing a stolen converter can be anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000. Some vehicles have as many as four converters. 

Here are a few tips police said will lessen your chances of becoming a victim:

  • Park in well-lighted areas
  • Park in your garage
  • Etch your VIN or license plate into your converters
  • Use bright high-temp paint (lets police know converter has been marked)
  • Install a skid plate or large cover to the bottom of your vehicle
  • Upgrade car alarms to activate when the vehicle is jacked up on one side
  • Aftermarket products like straps or wire cages make it much more difficult for your converter to be cut off

Houston Police said the thefts are happening most along the 290 corridor. Not in residential neighborhoods, but in shopping centers and commercial parking lots during lunch hour. When it’s too noisy to notice, you are becoming a victim.

“I’ve never seen it at the levels it is today," said Dennis Laviage, owner of C&D Scrap Metal. “When those metals go up, thievery is at an all-time high."

Laviage has been in the industry for 52 years and said the specific metals in catalytic converters right now are going for top dollar.

“Platinum, palladium, rhodium ... those items are going to rise, just like copper,” Laviage said.

He told KHOU 11 that he's strict about who he buys from and requires fingerprints, pictures and documents to be signed.

“In order to sell a catalytic converter to us here, you must have a receipt that you just bought a new one or you are an automotive shop," he said.

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